Tailgating in New York, VTL 1129

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Many drivers are aware that if a motorist is involved in a rear-end collision there exists a presumption that the following or second motorist is responsible for the collision, regardless of whether the lead car was in the process of de-accelerating or was in a state of motion. This presumption does not mean that the following motorist who hit the lead car from behind is automatically guilty; rather, that the following motorist carries the burden to overcome the presumption of responsibility by offering a non-negligent explanation for the accident.  In contrast, the lead motorist is not required to prove the fault of the rear driver and may rely on the presumption that that the following motorist is at fault.

This presumption, holding the following motorist responsible in instances of a rear-end collusion emerges from the motorist’s duty to avoid following too closely or “tailgating,” and maintain a safe distance behind other automobiles. This duty to avoid following to closely is codified by New York state as N.Y. VTL 1129 which states,

“[t]he driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.”

Following Too Closely Is Judged by the Police Officer

In essence, this law prohibits drivers from following, or tailgating other motorists on New York’s streets and highways. While such a law appears reasonable from a road safety perspective, its vague and subjective standard make it challenging for motorists to conform to the law’s requirements.

In effect, N.Y. VTL Section 1129 assigns to drivers the task of judging the speed of the flow of traffic and other relevant highway conditions and determining the reasonable distance to be maintained between automobiles. However, what may seem to one driver like a reasonable and a good faith attempt ensure a safe travelling distance between motorists may not be shared by a ticketing officer.

The upshot of New York’s Following Too Closely law is that police officers carry a great deal of discretion, and can almost seemingly arbitrarily determine that a motorist has failed to maintain a safe distance between themselves and another automobile.

Fines and Points for Following Too Closely

Even though a driver may often feel that he or she was arbitrarily ticketed for “tailgating” under N.Y. VTL 1129, a conviction will negatively impact a driver’s record and wallet. The recipient of tailgating ticket will incur four points on his or her driving record and a fine of $235 for a first offense.  In addition, a tailgating charge may result in increased auto insurance rates.

Drivers who have been ticketed for Following Too Closely under N.Y. VTL 1129 are strongly advised to seek the representation of a competent attorney to advocate for your rights. Attorney Adam H. Rosenblum is an experienced and skilled traffic violations attorney and provides expert and aggressive representation to those facing points on their driver’s license and the associated fines and surcharges.

If you have received a New York Following too closely ticket, or any other NY traffic violation email or call 888-883-5529 to speak to an attorney from The Rosenblum Law Firm.

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This post was written by Adam Rosenblum

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  • Tanya
    June 9, 2017

    I’m currently licensed in MA but recently moved to NC. I received a following too closely ticket in NY where the driver in front of me braked and I had little time to react. Both hands were on the wheel, there was light traffic so I was well under the speed limit. My phone was no where near me (there were no distractions). Little damage was incurred. How do you suggest I proceed?

    • RLF Attorneys
      June 14, 2017

      I suggest you contest this ticket, as the violation will transfer to your home state and will likely impact your insurance rates.

  • Andrii
    November 9, 2015


    I received “Following Too Closely” and “Failed to keep right” ticket in attempt to pass slow car in front of me on route 24A, Hunter, NY.

    • Adam Rosenblum
      November 13, 2015

      Andrii – you are facing a total of 7 points against your license, that will result in significant fines and insurance implications. I therefore recommend you fight this ticket.